Client: A Rapidly Growing California City

The Challenge: This central valley city had grown from under 50 to over 200 employees in a very few years. Human resource practices that worked well when the city was small were ineffective in a larger environment with greater employee turnover and a host of new supervisors. In particular, City management was concerned that absenteeism had grown to unacceptable levels. A newly negotiated labor agreement provided criteria for evaluating employee attendance but not specific guidance for implementing the policy or dealing with challenges under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), or state family medical leave. Questions included:

  • What constitutes abuse of sick leave?
  • Should an employee's absence due to their dependents illness be treated the same as that due to the employee's illness?
  • Can the city require notice of scheduled medical appointments?
  • How should intermittent absences be treated?

These questions are not unique to this organization. According to a recent survey by the Society for Human Resources Management, more than half of human resource professionals have difficulties in implementing FMLA's medical leave provisions and 80% find it difficult to track and/or administer intermittent leave.

Tracking leave usage in a streamlined manner can also be difficult. The city's payroll system did not allow entries in a manner that allowed managers to evaluate whether employees were abusing sick leave, requiring absenteeism information to be collected manually.

Our Approach:

  • Met with managers and supervisors to understand the issues that created difficulty for them in managing attendance.
  • Analyzed and recommending changes to the city's labor contract and personnel policies.
  • Evaluated the payroll system's capability to provide useful management information about employee absences.
  • Created an automated time tracking system to analyze whether employees were using excessive time off or abusing leave (e.g., repeatedly taking a sick day before or after a holiday).

The Results:

  • A uniform policy and procedure concerning sick leave usage consistent with federal, and state laws and local memoranda of understanding.
  • Heightened awareness of the impact of absenteeism on the ability of the city to carry out its essential functions.
  • Consistent monitoring, management, and counseling of employees exhibiting potential attendance problems by managers and the Human Resources Department.
  • Emphasis on promoting health and wellness among employees while maintaining adequate staffing levels and minimizing non-productive sick leave time and operational interruption in the workplace.

Consultants: Kate Harrison, Janet Bosnich and Ian Shepherd

For more information about this project, please click here to request the Executive Summary.